Elina Barzdienė,  July 2010, Canterbury, UK

In July 2010,  I took part in a Pilgrims teacher training course in Canterbury, UK. Our group consisted of 14 teachers from Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Azerbaijan and we all took a course in  “Methodology and Language for Secondary Teachers”.  I had applied for funding through the Comenius programme and was very happy to get the sponsorship for the course. I chose the Pilgrims teacher training course because of the good reviews from my Lithuanian colleagues. I expected to gain new ideas, refresh my English and experience the unique Pilgrims difference, which focuses on the principles of Humanistic Approaches and on continuous personal and professional development.

I shared a house on campus with 5 other teachers from Slovenia, Spain and Poland. We had a small kitchen, where we cooked our meals and spent a lot of time chatting and sharing our impressions. On campus, we found a little shop and a cafe with the Internet connection. Residential, teaching and administrative buildings of the university were surrounded by green open spaces, fields and woods.  In the mornings, on the way to the University, we enjoyed seeing the rabbits and squirrels, jumping around.

The well-known team of Pilgrims trainers included Mario Rinvolucri, Chaz Pugliese, Simon Marshall, Sheelagh Deller, Bonnie Tsai, Paul Davis and many more dedicated professionals. The competent, devoted and energetic Magda Zamorska taught our course. The course covered such topics as ways of practising grammar and vocabulary, Multiple Intelligences and NLP, teaching through five senses, using visual arts, films, music, songs and drama, ideas for encouraging learner independence, dealing with different learning styles, work on pronunciation, adapting or supplementing course books, dealing with common discipline problems, creative writing, project work, and ways of developing our own creativity.

During the course, we shared our experience of teaching, considered ways of preparing interesting lessons for a variety of teaching contexts, and reflected on our own teaching situations. Our trainers encouraged us to reassess our beliefs and attitudes in the light of current trends in methodology and taught us how “traditional” ideas can be used creatively.  We learned how to become more humanistic teachers – teachers who, besides having good knowledge of the subject, have meaningful relationships with their students. This is really the key to good teaching. In 2 short weeks, I learned many practical techniques for my classroom. 

The courses were well-organised.  Apart from the main training course lasting from 9.00 am to 2.30 pm, there were many activities to choose from between 4:00 and 8:00 pm. We were offered a full programme for our professional and personal development including drama workshops, fun with poetry, British culture, joke telling, Tai’Chi, yoga, Shakespeare’s  night, Scottish evening, salsa and folk dancing. In the evening, I enjoyed going to the coastal resort Whitstable. East Kent is  one of the most picturesque areas of the UK. I visited the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral and the ancient ruins of St. Augustin’s Abbey. At the weekend, we went on an amazing sightseeing trip in London and experienced a wealth of history, culture and exciting attractions.

I had such a great experience in  the Pilgrims teacher training course that I would like to return to Canterbury again. I have gained not only a lot of new knowledge but also made many new friends.  During the course, our group  learnt a lot about each other – our families, countries, educational systems, culture and traditions. This teacher training  course was useful, innovative and inspirational. I would highly recommend it  to all Lithuanian teachers of English to take Pilgrims  teacher training courses.